Millions of fugitives can pass undetected through federal background checks and buy guns illegally because police departments fail to put their names into a national database that tracks people on the run from the law, reports USA Today. Background checks conducted by the FBI are designed to block fugitives, felons, the mentally ill and others who might be violent from buying firearms. They bar sales to anyone identified in federal records as having an outstanding arrest warrant, even if it is for a minor crime.
Despite years of attempts to shore up the National Instant Background Check System, enormous gaps remain, particularly when it comes to identifying fugitives. In five states alone, law enforcement agencies failed to provide information to the FBI on 2.5 million outstanding arrest warrants. Among them are tens of thousands of people wanted for violent offenses and other felonies. “I remember when I bought my first gun thinking that I could have had a felony warrant for murder and they wouldn’t have known,” said Kevin Collins, who supervises Michigan’s fugitive database for the state police. The gaps are largely a byproduct of the fact that police and prosecutors are often unwilling to spend time or money to pursue fugitives across a state border. The FBI fugitive database is supposed to help police find people once they leave the state, and many agencies see no reason to include the names of fugitives they have no intention of pursuing.